To Mark the Fourth Year of SESTA/FOSTA, tell Congress to Investigate its Harms

Image of protesters holding signs in opposition to SESTA-FOSTA

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Introduce yourself, be polite, and say:

“I’m a resident in your district, and I am asking you to co-sponsor the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act, House bill 6928 and Senate bill 3758. Four years ago, Congress passed FOSTA/SESTA, and it is overdue for Congress to understand the impacts this legislation had. Co-sponsor the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act and let sex workers know that their/our health and safety are more than the collateral consequences of legislation. Thank You.”

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For SESTA/FOSTA’s fourth anniversary, call your representatives to demand that Congress understand the collateral damage of bad Internet policy. Our tool will connect you to your lawmakers’ offices: first your representative in the House, then your representatives in the Senate.

On April 11, 2018, SESTA/FOSTA became law. It censored wide swaths of the Internet and got people killed. The SAFE SEX Workers Study Act gives us a crucial opportunity to fully understand the impact of Section 230 changes on the lives of marginalized people, especially those who trade sex.

SESTA/FOSTA, a major carve out from Section 230, was framed as an anti-trafficking bill and passed with little opposition—in spite of sex workers’ pleas to understand how it would impact people trading sex. Almost immediately, sex workers’ fears came true: out of fear of litigation, SESTA/FOSTA pushed online platforms to tear down the platforms and connection to community that kept sex workers safe.

One after another, the sites where sex workers found clients and work closed down. Craigslist removed its Personals section and Backpage shuttered. Sex worker communities, allies and people profiled to be sex workers were blocked and banned on a range of platforms. Almost overnight, sex workers lost crucial tools for vetting clients, sharing safety tips, and stabilizing their income, pushing many into far-riskier forms of work

It’s clear that SESTA/FOSTA’s harms far outweigh any good: it has only been used once to aid in Federal sex trafficking prosecutions, but sex workers—a large percentage of whom are transgender and/or people of color—have reported a shocking increase in homicidal attacks, self-harm, and suicide. 

SESTA/FOSTA has joined the long list of spurious Internet bills with stomach-churning consequences for human life and human rights. Now, a bill called the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act directs Congress to do a comprehensive study of its devastating effects on people who trade sex. With the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act, we have the chance to prevent more mistakes like SESTA/FOSTA.

This is a critical opportunity to understand the real-world impact of Internet policy. Call your legislators today and urge them to co-sponsor the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act!

Want to get more involved? Sign onto a letter in support of the SAFE SEX Workers Study Act and get connected with more ways to advance the bill.

John Oliver breaks down SESTA/FOSTA: “Badly written laws can have massive consequences.”

This effort is organized in coordination with the Sex Workers Project of the Urban Justice Center and Reframe Health and Justice.